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Wednesday, 2 March 1927

Senator PAYNE (TASMANIA) - That sentiment should certainly be created in legislative halls. No matter how much the commission might apply itself to its work, I fail to see what it could do to solve the main problem of finding a means of having the right kind of film presented to the public, and having a reasonable porportion of films dealing with Empire matters rather than scenes and incidents in foreign countries. T find on reference to the Summary of Proceedings of the Imperial Conference that -

Great importance is attached by the subcommittee to the larger production within the Empire of films of high entertainment value and films of sound educational merit, and their exhibition throughout the Empire and the rest of tha world are on an increasing scale. The sub-committee have considered various methods bv means of which, it has been suggested, this object could be most usefully assisted by the Governments of the various parts of the Empire. These methods include- -

Effective Customs duties on foreign films, whether accompanied by a change in the basis on which the duties are payable or otherwise ;

Ample preference or free entry for films produced within the Empire;

Legislation for the prevention of "blind;' and "block" booking;

The imposition of requirements as to the renting or exhibition of a minimum quota of Empire films.

The sub-committee went on to say -

Whatever action may be taken by Governments will be useless ' unless producers show sufficient enterprise, resource, and adaptability. On the other hand, it should be recognized that suitable Government action, whether legislative or administrative, may he an effective incentive and encouragement to private enterprise in its efforts to place the Empire film industry on a sound footing.

My personal conviction is that before we can hope for any improvement in the direction of encouraging Empire films we must, by legislative action, make it worth while for those with the necessary capital to invest it in the British or Australian film industries. No matter how wise the choice of members of the proposed commission might be, I fail to see that any good result could accrue from its appointment, because the report would deal mainly with the desirability of an increased proportion of Australian and British films being shown. We are quite aware of that fact already, because it has been found necessary to appoint a film censorship. It would be wise for the Government to consider the immediate necessity of introducing legislation to deal effectively with the situation. The motion, if adopted, would result in a waste of money, since all the information we need is contained in the Censor's report. Knowing that, we should do all we ca.ii by legislation to encourage the establishment of the industry in Australia rather than rely upon recommendations of' a royal commission, which can give us no forth pt information than is already at our disposal.

SenatorREID (Queensland) f"4.20].I fail to see what good would result from the carrying of the motion, inasmuch as the information which a royal commission could obtain is already available to us. However, I shall not oppose it, because I realize that, amongst a large section of the people of Australia there is a very erroneous impression about the position of the film industry. I have been in close touch with a number of picture show proprietors, and have been impressed by their anxiety to place before Australian audiences the very best pictures that can be obtained. The Commonwealth Government is producing a series of films entitled, " Know Your Own Country." These are always most acceptable to the proprietors of picture theatres. There is no trouble at all about arranging for their screening. In fact, most proprietors would be glad to screen double the quantity if it could be made available to them. Because of the importance of these pictures in educating Australians concerning the industries and resources of Australia, the Government is to be congratulated on its enterprise. I have no hesitation in saying that, from the Empire point of view, the majority of picture theatre proprietors are exceedingly patriotic, and on many occasions go out of their way to obtain good British films. Unfortunately, however, the British filmproducing companies are unable to supply all our requirements. We have just been told that only about 8 per cent, of films imported are of British origin. That, I should say, is just about all that the British companies are producing. We should also bear in mind that all British pictures in the past have not been above reproach. Some, I believe, were even more disgraceful than those produced by American companies and rejected by the Censor. The position may be better to-day. I hope it is, because we all know that the tendency of American companies is to produce films with a strong sex appeal, and with all the thrills and excitement that can possibly be crammed into a picture. There appears to be a wave of degeneracy passing over the whole picture world. The producers explain that they must either tu«n out the films that the public demand or go out of the business. The majority of these companies, I believe, would be willing enough to produce a good film of the highest moral tone if it would pay from a commercial point of view; and in my opinion the best way to bring about an improvement is to educate the people to demand a better class of pictures. I said just now that the picture theatre pro prietors in Australia, as a rule, were anxious to show good pictures. One man of my acquaintance went into the business with noble ideals. He was fully persuaded that if he put on the very best pictures obtainable he would do something to educate and uplift the people. He did so; but, unfortunately, found that he was losing money.

Senator Duncan - The people would not go to see his pictures?

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